For several years, in elementary and middle school, I was convinced that I wanted to have eight children when I grew up. “I’m going to give birth to four and then adopt four,” I would say to anyone who would listen.
When I think back now, I can’t remember why I wanted such a big family. I’m one of three kids, and most of my friends and cousins were in families with two or three children (and the occasional “big” family with four kids.) But I do remember being adamant about it. And apparently my old friends remember it, too.
Occasionally someone will bring it up. “Didn’t you used to want eight kids?” they’ll ask me, and I’ll laugh and roll my eyes at the younger me who thought she could handle eight children.
My friends these days know that, after two, I’d consider myself absolutely done having kids. Somewhere in high school or college I made a firm decision that I didn’t want more kids than I had hands to hold them.
But my childhood friends remember the idealistic me who was going to raise eight children while working as a missionary or a teacher: the version of myself that had lots of big ideas and very little life experience.
Now that I’m a mom, many of my closest friends are women who live nearby and whose children are similar in age to mine. I met some of them when my husband and I moved away from my hometown eight years ago.
Others I met as my oldest child played in the front yard of the house we bought five years ago. Many of my mom friends and I were pregnant at the same time or nursed our babies together in the church nursery.
My friendships with these women are essential to me as a mom. They give me advice on things like potty training and how to keep my kids from getting out of bed 800 times a night. They assure me that I’m normal and that no mom actually has it all together.
They’ve watched my kids so I could go to appointments alone or take a much-needed sanity break. We get together for a few minutes of adult conversation interspersed with fetching snacks and shouts to “be careful!”
They help me make it through the day-to-day trials of motherhood and are guaranteed to celebrate with me when someone poops on the potty or sleeps through the night. They make motherhood easier and less lonely.
But there is a different kind of freedom in being with the women who have known me long before I changed my name to Mommy. I think these friendships are as important for moms as “mommy friendships.”
In the midst of diaper changes and bedtime routines and temper tantrums, these women help me remember who I am, or rather, who I was.
They connect me to my past. They remember my stories, my embarrassing moments, my bad haircuts. They text me with “Remember when…” and “Look at this picture I found of us!”
They feel like an anchor to the person I used to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back. I’m happy with where I am, and I love my children. Even when I was young and in my “I’m going to have eight kids” days, I knew that I wanted to be able to stay home with my kids when they were little, and now I am doing that (though only with two kids — not eight). You couldn’t pay me to go back in time to college or high school or middle school.
But some of my most cherished friendships are with the people who knew me back then. The me who wanted a big family and who had strong opinions on things I knew nothing about. These are the friends who knew me when I was still becoming me.
And when I’m surrounded by diapers and crackers ground into the carpet of every room in my house, it’s nice to have people who remember what I was like before I was perpetually sleep-deprived. Who don’t know me primarily as someone’s mom but as someone in my own right.
Someday, when my kids are grown, I hope that I will still have both of these sets of friends: the mom friends who helped me as my kids grew, and the childhood friends who grew alongside me when I was a kid myself.
We will laugh and reminisce over our stories and our shared history. I hope that my grown children will find, in the kids of my “mom friends,” the same treasure that I have: friends who grew up along beside them, friends who have a shared past, friends who will anchor them their whole lives through.
For more from Bethany Neumeyer visit I Was Promised More Naps, Facebook and Instagram.